Finnish people are known for being humble, especially when it comes to bragging about their country. However, Finland is a remarkably diverse country and has many beautiful things to offer. From vibrant cities with a buzzing nightlife to tranquil villages that serve the best local delicacies. From pristine forests and lakes to hikes in the tundra and rafting through wild rivers – be it adventure or calmness that you’re looking for, you will find it in Finland.
Arctic safe haven
The contrasts are part of the country’s charm. The illuminating Midnight Sun in the height of the summer, and the magic icy and dark winter nights lit up by shining stars and Northern Lights, are things that you should experience at least once in your life.
Finland is also a great place to live and raise a family. The country continuously places at the top of international rankings in areas, such as quality of education, safety, transparency, and cleanliness of the environment. These are also reasons why many expats choose to stay here. Finns value honesty, and we respect each other and other’s property.
Reliable present and an innovative future
The country’s infrastructure is well-organized and planned for future development. Finland is a proud high-tech country, and new technologies are effectively applied throughout society. Finland is also ranked as the third most innovative country in the world (WEF, 2016). The public transportation is reliable and works smoothly. There are many state-funded public recreational facilities, such as extensive libraries and well-equipped sports halls, that offer various services with little or no charge. All services are available in English as well.
Finland is becoming more international with each passing day. While proud of their rich Nordic culture, Finns are curious about new cultures and put effort into making Finland a remarkable connection between Europe and Asia.
Population: 5.4 million people
Population density: 18.1 inhabitants / km2
Life expectancy: males-78 years, females- 84 years
Official languages: Finnish (88.9%) and Swedish (5.3%). Sámi is spoken by the indigenous people in northern Lapland
Religion: Christianity: Lutheran 73.8%, Orthodox 1.1%. In practice, the society is fairly secularised
Independence Day: December 6th, 1917
Form of Government: Republic, parliamentary democracy
Head of State: President of the Republic, elected every six years. Current president is Mr. Sauli Niinistö, elected in 2012
Member of the EU since 1995
Member of the UN since 1955
GDP per capita (2014): 37,559 €
Key features: High-quality education, social security, and healthcare. All financed by the state
The early days
The area now known as Finland was inhabited after the latest ice age, some 11,000 years ago. The people were hunters and gatherers until 3,200 when the agricultural era started. However, hunting and fishing remained the most important ways to live especially in the eastern and northern parts.
The early Finns used to believe in pagan religions, that varied across villages. In the middle ages, Christianity reached the north. The Catholic church’s mission was to convert the pagan tribes to Christianity. The eastern Orthodox Novgorod embraced a peaceful approach, but the western emerging kingdoms of Sweden and Denmark took a more offensive stance and tried to conquer and Christianise Finland in what would be the Nordic equivalent of crusades.
Part of the kingdom of Sweden
Sweden began the colonization of the Finnish west coast, an area which is still today partly Swedish speaking. There were many conflicts between the Finns and the conquerors coming from both east and west. The Tavastians of mid-southern Finland fought against the Swedes, and still long after the 13th century, tribal people of Karelia and Lapland were attacking the Christians of the Swedish kingdom and the Orthodox’ of the east.
While Finland became more or less part of Sweden in the 13th century, the term Österland, Eastland, was used to describe the area. It was not until the 15th century that Österland was replaced with the name Suomi or Finland.
During the 13th century, the bishopric city of Turku was established, along with its famous cathedral. Finland was reigned over from the fortresses of Turku, Hämeenlinna, and Viipuri. Finland was also a destination for Vikings from Scandinavia. The fortresses played an important role in defending the coast.
The Swedish church was reformed under king Gustav Vasa. Following the policies of the reformation, Mikael Agricola, the bishop of Turku, published his translation of the New Testament in Finnish in 1591. A year earlier, Gustav Vasa had established the current capital Helsinki under the name Helsingfors. However, it remained a mere fishing village for over two centuries.
In 1640 the Academy of Åbo, the first university in Finland, was established in Turku by the Swedish queen Christina. After the Great Fire of Turku in 1827, the university was moved to Helsinki. After Finland gained its independence in 1917, the name was changed to University of Helsinki.
Russian Grand Duchy
The Finnish War was fought between the Kingdom of Sweden and the Russian Empire from February 1808 to September 1809. Finland became part of Russia and gained autonomy under the name Grand Duchy of Finland. In the 19th century, the population in Finland grew rapidly, and the country became urbanized. In 1841 the Finnish language became a subject in schools.
During the years of oppression 1899-1905 and 1908-1917, the policy of Russification was implemented. The policy aimed at limiting Finland’s status as an autonomy and integrate it into the Russian empire. The Finns were strongly against it and fought back with passive resistance and by strengthening the Finnish cultural identity.
In 1906, as a result of the Russian Revolution and the Finnish General Strike, the first years of oppression came to an end, and the Parliament of Finland was established. Finnish women were eligible to vote, among the first ones in the world. However, the Russification continued in 1908, as the royal family of Romanovs maintained their reign.
During the First World War, in the aftermath of the February Revolution, Finland saw that the personal union with Russia was over with dethroning of the tsar in 1917. On the 6th of December 1917, Finland declared independence.
After a brief but bitter civil war between Social Democrats and the non-Socialist Parliament, won by the latter, Finland was announced a democratic republic.
In the Second World War, Finland fought twice against Soviet Russia, losing some areas in the Finnish Karelia. People from these areas immigrated to the rest of Finland. As a result, today many Finns have ancestors from Karelia. Although Finland lost both wars, the nation can still consider it as a victory: it remained independent while being attacked by an enemy with massive superior military strength.
In 2017, we celebrated the 100-year old Finland. Since gaining independence, Finland has come a long way. Today Finland has one of the highest living standards in the world, free high-quality healthcare, and the best education system. We continuously rank at the top of transparency, sustainability, innovation, clean and green nature, as well as, equality.
Finland has an extremely eventful history and a rich culture. We also have a vision for the future – to make Finland the most progressive welfare country in the world.
Area: 390,905 km2, 5th largest country in Western Europe
Distance from North to South: 1,157km
Distance from East to West: 542km
Capital: Helsinki (1.4 million inhabitants in the metropolitan area)
Of Finland’s total area of 390,905 km2, 303,891 km2 is land, 34,544km2 is sweet water, and 52,470km2 is sea. The ground is rising from the sea, and the land area grows approximately 7km2 every year.
Cities add up to around five percent of the land, while cultivated land takes up 10%. The forests cover some 77% of the land, while the rest is used for other purposes.
The bedrock in Finland is ancient, but the covering layer soil is relatively new. The ground got its current shape during the latest ice age, that molded the land heavily. Evidence of this can still be found today. Glacial till, gravel and sand make up the eskers dividing the country, and giant rocks that were carried for long distances by the ice can be found everywhere.
The highest places in Finland are the mountains in the north. The south and the area of Ostrobothnia on the west coast are flat, while the middle of the country and the east border have hills.
Finland is known as the Land of thousand lakes, and not without reason- there are some 190,000 lakes in the country. The largest lake, Saimaa, is the fourth biggest in the whole Europe. There is also plenty of rivers connecting the lakes and flowing to the Baltic sea.
Finland has remarkable archipelago. The Turku archipelago and the Kvarken archipelago are both fighting for the title of the most beautiful archipelago in the world!
Most of the forest covering Finland is boreal forest, or taiga, and is characterized by coniferous forest consisting mostly of spruces, pines, and birch. Northern Ostrobothnia and Lapland both have remarkable areas of the mire.
Climate and weather
The climate in Finland is a mixture of maritime and continental, depending on the location. The Golf current flowing from the south bring warm winds and thus the climate the northern Europe is warmer than in other locations in the same latitude.
However, the changes in temperature between winter and summer are clear. The summer average temperature is 22C in the south, while in the north the corresponding number is 18C. In winter, temperature in the north easily drops to -15C. Going south, while being below zero, it rarely gets colder than -10C.
The four seasons
The flow of life in Finland is greatly dictated by our four seasons. In the summer, most people enjoy summer holidays, and the lake shores are populated by people coming to their summer cottages. In the southern Finland, the days are long and it gets dark only for a while during the early hours. However, in the northernmost parts, a summer day can last for weeks. The midnight sun does not set at all.
In the fall, when everyone is returning back to school and work, the nature is offering its brightest colours and a plentiful harvest. Thanks to jokamiehenoikeudet, every man’s rights, everyone has the right to pick as many berries and mushrooms as they want, walk through any forests that they wish, and fish with a rod or line on any shore they want. Many people head up north to Lapland to hike; the fall colors of red and gold are the most beautiful there.
The winter in Finland is cold and while in the south the sunlight hours are scarce, in the north the sun does not rise at all – the sunless polar night kaamos can be found there. However, it is not as dark as you imagine. The snow reflects and magnifies even the smallest lights. You should not to forget the aurea borealis, the northern lights, either. All kind of winter sports are popular in Finland. There are many great places for alpine skiing, and the municipalities make sure that the cross-country skiing tracks and ice skating rinks, that are usually free of charge, are in prime condition. During the winter we also enjoy many festivities. The Finnish Independence Day is celebrated the 6th of December and kicks off the pre-Christmas party season. Christmas is followed by the New Year’s Eve. This is the only day in Finland that you are allowed to light fireworks, so everyone is making the most out of it!
The spring in Finland is short. While you can see crocuses sticking their heads out of the melting snow in the south of Finland, in the more northern parts, where there is still snow on the ground, the amount of light is dazzling. The snow reflects the sunshine, so don’t forget to pack your sunglasses! During Easter many people head north to ski – sometimes, you can spot people skiing in light hoodies, or even a t-shirt!
Banking and ATM
If you are a degree student in Finland it is advisable to open a Finnish bank account. For banking services – such as for opening an account or granting a card or student loan – foreign citizens need to show valid documents. Please take with you:
- Your passport
- Residence permit card
- Certificate of student status from your university
As every bank in Finland has an obligation to know its customers, please be ready to provide the following information to the bank official by answering their questions
- Your name
- Address in Finland (registered at the Local Register Office)
- Personal ID code (should you have one e.g. on your residence permit card)
- Whether you are in a prominent public function in a foreign country (hence a Politically Exposed Person) or a member of the family or close business partner of such a person
- Your occupational status which describes your financial position (= student)
- Whether you will use the bank as your main bank
- Origin or source of your funds and regular payment transactions or cash flows
- Estimated amounts of your foreign payments and reasons for them
The practice of opening a bank account varies according to bank and branch in Finland. Each case is decided individually by the bank. However, every bank has a statutory obligation to open basic payment account services to anyone who has a legal residence in an EEA member state.
NB! Our students have had good experiences with Danske Bank
Mobile and internet
Finland has a variety of phone and internet services available, the most used ones today are mobile phones, and internet, however, a few fixed (landline) phones can still be found.
When arriving in Finland, we recommend you to purchase a SIM card to get a Finnish mobile number, as using your home phone number will be expensive. There are two types of mobile phone accounts you can choose from:
A prepaid service is great as it gives you flexibility and control over how much you spend and you can stop using the service anytime. Pre-paid SIM cards are sold in many shops and supermarkets (R-Kioski), as well as by mobile phone carriers (Elisa, Telia, DNA). You will have a working Finnish mobile number that you can top up with credit when needed. You can top up your prepaid card both online and in many shops and kiosks.
If you will be in Finland for a longer period of study, a contract might be a cheaper option for you. There are numerous mobile phone operators in Finland, and you can choose from a range of phone plans with different amounts of data. You pay a fixed price per month for a certain amount of calls, text messages and data. To get a contract, you need to show your Finnish ID number and a proof of your address.
Many of the mobile phone carriers in Finland are also internet providers, and they offer pre-paid or contract internet plans similar to the above. If you choose a contract service, you will receive a modem, and just like a phone service, you pay a monthly rate to get a certain data. Ask the providers you are considering for details of plans that might suit your needs.
Making international calls
To make international telephone calls from Finland, just type the country code directly, followed by the telephone number. To call Finland from abroad, dial +358 followed by the Finnish telephone number. To make calls within Finland just dial the phone number.